Read Across America, a really BIG event for Raleigh elementary school

By: Jamie Kritzer 

One of our most important jobs in the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality is educating the next generation to appreciate and protect the environment.

“And if you’re gonna educate children, you better bring your ‘A’ game,” says DEQ Secretary Michael Regan.

So for this year’s Read Across America celebration, staff with the Department of Environmental Quality used their creative genius to design an event that the students and teachers at Barwell Road Elementary in Raleigh will likely not soon forget.

Regan and his staff visited Mrs. Blackley’s  first-grade class at Barwell Road Elementary March 3. To promote the importance of reading and protecting the environment, Regan read from a favorite children’s book “Curious George Plants a Tree.”


But Regan and his staff realized after picking up the book at a local library it would be difficult for a 45 first-graders and their teachers to visualize Curious George. That is unless they took a few drastic measures.   

So, DEQ’s Creative Services staff Larry Goodwin, Jerome Moore and Angela Marshall took the library book “Curious George Plants a Tree” and made it big. Like, really big.

Using a scanner, the Creative Services team took each page of the book and expanded it about five times as big as the library book. Then, they carefully bound the spine of the book with glue and grommets and loaded it into a car for the trip to Barwell.      

Once inside Mrs. Blackley’s first-grade class, the book was hoisted onto the easels before 45 wide-eyed first graders were invited into the classroom. “Wow!” on the students exclaimed.  

As Regan read, two people carefully turned the pages, making sure to hold the book in place on the easels so the children could see every colorful detail of Curious George’s adventure.  

“That’s really cool,” one of the first-grade teachers said.

But DEQ staff didn’t stop there.

Lisa Tolley and Marty Wiggins in the department’s Environmental Education program contacted a local Walmart and found a really generous employee named William who agreed to pay to donate an Eastern Red Bud tree to the school. Then, Tolley and Wiggins and PIO Bridget Munger gathered up all the environmental education trinkets they could find for the occasion.

Students and teachers will plant their new Red Bud at some point in the near future. 

But today it was all about reading Curious George and feeding little minds.

“What a great way to spend a few hours,” Regan said. “When you can spend even an hour educating young children about the importance of reading and protecting the environment, that’s time well spent. Thankfully, we have a lot of wonderful teachers in our state who do this same important work each and every day.”    

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